Hello, World! is a phrase uttered by many programmers, at a variety of times in their careers.

The very beginnings

Hello, World is the name of the first program written by many, as it is often the most simple program.

In Python, Perl, Ruby, and countless other scripting languages, Hello, World is a single line of code:

python print "Hello, World!"

Yet, as you enter the realm of low-level languages, the realm of computers themselves, Hello, World becomes an increasingly difficult program to write.

In most assembly languages, for instance, strings are not a first-class concept as they are in high-level languages. Writing a program to print the string “Hello, World~” to the screen may or may not be trivial. At a minimum, system calls require a bit of boilerplate code; at some layers, Hello, World might require implementing display drivers themselves!

Probably not. Point is, 1 + 1 is perhaps a better first program. Integers are perhaps easier to work with than strings; addition is perhaps better defined than printing to the string. What is it, then, that draws new programmers to Hello, World?

Hello, World is interesting. Not necessarily simple, but interesting. Let that sink in for a minute.

The experienced learning

I am a decent programmer. Many programmers are better than I am. Many others can learn from me. I wrote my first Hello, World program years ago. What am I doing, writing one now?

Think about Hello, World on a deeper level. Not the program, everyone has thought about the program, but the words “Hello” and “World.”

Note the comma. When we write “Hello, World”, both the phrase and the program, we are addressing the world itself. (For readers interested in poetry, this is called “apostrophe”).

We are welcoming ourself into the World. The World of Python. The World of Perl. The World of Blogging. The World of Programming. The World of Anything New.

Simply because I was welcomed into the world of programming years ago does not mean I was also welcomed into the world of blogging.

Shehecheyanu

Judiasm has a prayer, the Shehecheyanu (literally, “Who has given us life”), for new experiences. Generally, it is said when someone does something new for the first time (in a while). There are a variety of traditions surrounding its usage; I’m not particularly familiar with them. (If you’re interested, read its Wikipedia page.)

I propose that Hello, World is the Shehecheyanu of programmers. I may criticise the traditional reasons for saying the Shehecheyanu, and I may criticise the traditional reasons for writing a Hello, World program (as opposed to, for instance, FizzBuzz), but these traditions are ingrained in Jewish and programmer cultures respectively. If you would like to welcome yourself to anything, who am I to prevent you from reciting Shehecheyanu or writing Hello, World? I, for one, continue to write these programs out of sheer tradition.

Hello, World.


– back to blog –